The 2007 Homeless Count Report (884 Kb PDF), released March 28, shows a 2% increase in San Francisco’s homeless population since the most recent such count in 2005. The proportion of homeless youth has almost doubled, while more than half again as many members of homeless families are living on the streets. Even more striking are the portions of the homeless population not counted.
Perhaps most notably, a documented 1,560 members of families living crowded together in single-room occupancy hotel rooms were omitted from the count, despite being considered homeless by a City law co-sponsored by then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom.
While the count of homeless people staying in shelters was down by 257, the city has lost 326 beds since 2005, indicating that while resources have disappeared, demand for shelter has actually increased.
In order to test the accuracy of the count of San Francisco’s vehicularly housed, the 2007 Count employed “tester cars.” Only 43% of these vehicles were counted. If this accuracy test is representative, then 57% of San Franciscans living in their cars or vans were not counted. If this level of inaccuracy applies to the count as a whole, then the given total may be a wild undercount.
Half of the city’s twelve hospitals failed to report the number of homeless patients. The six that did respond reported 122 homeless people. Another temporarily sheltered segment of the homeless population that may have been undercounted was that in the County Jail: A document released by the Sheriff’s Department the month of the Count reported that 30% of the Jail’s inmates were homeless, the 2007 Count estimates only 20% of these same inmates as homeless, representing a difference of approximately 200 individuals.
Strangely, the Newsom administration has reported the Count as evidence of success. Says Juan Prada of the Coalition on Homelessness, “This administration is again spinning facts to try to take advantage of homelessness in an electoral year. It’s a terribly cynical take on politics to claim an increased homeless count as ‘progress.’ This is not a victory: Even had the numbers decreased, rather than increased, the fact would remain that thousands of people continue to be homeless on San Francisco’s streets. We need to place our focus on providing adequate, safe, affordable housing.”